Features March 2015
A kingdom in splinters
Traditional philology today is a shadow of what it once was. Can it survive?
What language did Adam and Eve speak in the Garden of Eden? Today the question might seem not only quaint, but daft. Thus, the philologist Andreas Kempe could speculate, in his “Die Sprache des Paradises” (“The Language of Paradise”) of 1688, that in the Garden God spoke Swedish to Adam and Adam replied in Danish while the serpent—wouldn’t you know it?—seduced Eve in French. Others suggested Flemish, Old Norse, Tuscan dialect, and, of course, Hebrew. But as James Turner makes clear in his magisterial and witty history, which ranges from the ludicrous to the...
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